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 Hammad Siddiqui Arrested. What Does This Mean For Families of the Victims of Baldia Fire?

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News Analysis |

Hammad Siddiqui, the prime suspect in the Baldia Town factory blaze and former chief of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) Karachi organizing committee, has been reportedly arrested in Dubai on Friday. According to various sources, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) team is likely to fly to Dubai in a couple of days to take Hammad Siddiqui into custody.

At least 260 workers were killed and dozens injured when a fire swept through the garment factory in Karachi’s Baldia Town in September 2012. The main accused of the Baldia factory tragedy, Abdul Rehman (alias Bhola), who was arrested from Bangkok, had admitted to the investigation team that he had deliberately set ablaze tAli Enterprises on the instructions of MQM leader Hammad Siddiqui.

Read more: MQM rejects census results, demands “true population record”

Rehman said that Hammad had demanded Rs. 250 million as protection money and a share in the profits from the factory owners. When they refused, Rehman, being the ad-hoc in-charge of MQM’s Baldia Town Sector, was tasked with committing arson at the factory with the use of chemicals.

Problems for MQM & PSP

Since the separation of MQM-Pakistan chapter from London Rabita Committee, this arrest can be considered as the biggest challenge so far to the beleaguered party currently headed by Farooq Sattar. MQM-Pakistan is already marred by internal divisions and power struggle between various factions.

Some PSP leaders might find themselves in trouble due to their alleged links with MQM troublemakers in the past.

In a major blow to MQM-P, Karachi’s Deputy Mayor Arshad Vohra quit his party and joined the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) on October 29. After joining PSP, Vohra stated that many MQM lawmakers would soon join other parties since they are not satisfied with the modus operandi of Farooq Sattar.

However, Hammad Siddiqui’s arrest poses a more serious threat to the unity of MQM than a few disgruntled party leaders.

Baldia factory tragedy took place when MQM was united under Altaf Hussain and it enjoyed, what seemed like, unchallenged control over the largest city in Pakistan. Sources reveal that MQM’s terror cells were involved in targeted killings and extortion among other crimes. The party is known to suppress dissidence within and without using brute force.

Read more: Are MQM factions thinking of uniting against PPP for 2018 elections?

Hence, some MQM party leaders who are now members of MQM-P, one way or other were involved in many of the crooked activities done in the past.

Hammad Siddiqui, suspect in the Baldia Town factory blaze and former chief of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s  Karachi organizing committee, has been reportedly arrested in Dubai on Friday.

Hammad Siddiqui’s return is likely to expose these leaders, which will exacerbate problems for MQM-P. Sources have revealed that it was actually an FIA probe into the money laundering case against Mr. Vohra that became a major bone of contention between him and Farooq Sattar since the latter refused to provide any assistance to the former.

So, it can be inferred that serious allegations against other MQM-P leaders might force them to change their allegiance in hope of assurances against criminal prosecution.

Moreover, many former MQM leaders have joined PSP, which largely consists of ex-MQM lawmakers. Some PSP leaders might find themselves in trouble due to their alleged links with MQM troublemakers in the past.

Read more: Why Nadeem Nusrat’s desertion from MQM-London is not significant?

Families of Baldia factory victims are still awaiting justice. Lawyers and civil society have expressed hope that this arrest would help in punishing all those responsible.  

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